Snow Piles On Evidence

Of Need for More Roads

Mother Nature is a teacher.

The recent record snowfall that closed lanes and narrowed area roadways was an important lesson as to what happens when traffic demand greatly exceeds available space. It was also a vivid preview of what daily congestion and life will be like in the future if elected officials don't move quickly to add more lanes and capacity to meet projected population and travel increases.

The lesson is clear. Time will tell if it's a lesson learned. To paraphrase a commercial of yesteryear, "It's not a good idea to ignore Mother Nature."

Robert O. Chase


Northern Virginia

Transportation Alliance

In Bus Rapid Transit,

A Dead-End Ticket

Tim Dwyer's report on Tom Hirst, Bill Vincent and the Dulles Bus Rapid Transit project correctly represents the misguided effort of these two people to keep us dependent upon too many automobiles ["Fighting to Derail New Metro Line," Fairfax Extra, Feb. 13]. Moving people safely, rapidly and economically will not be possible without the Dulles rail line.

The new Pittsburgh busway pictured in the article went 61 percent over its cost estimate. To fit the budget, a connection to downtown Pittsburgh was eliminated. The projected weekday ridership of 50,000 people has turned out to be under 10,000. A more misguided project would be hard to find. Light rail would have cost less.

In Los Angeles, they did not tell about the real rapid busway that cost $500 million for 10 miles that attracts only 4,000 of the promised 63,000 weekday passengers. Just five miles to the east, a light rail transit line that opened over 10 years ago is actually carrying 70,000 weekday passengers, far more than expected. They had to lengthen the stations to carry more people. The stations on this ill-advised Los Angeles busway are the same proposed for Dulles, requiring that buses cross in front of each other entering and leaving the stations. A more dangerous practice is hard to imagine. In Pittsburgh, at least seven people have been killed in vehicles on the busways, and they do not have this dangerous feature.

The bus rapid transit they do tell about in Los Angeles is just a souped-up express bus that has long been there with traffic signal actuators added. They do not turn the lights green for buses but will adjust the cycle a few seconds to help buses without gridlocking other traffic.

A new light rail line will open in July, boosting subway riding to perhaps 155,000 a day. The Wilshire Boulevard portion of the bus rapid transit carries approximately 25,000 riders -- not significant. People in the San Fernando Valley have fought the new busway there, but the transit authority has the power of eminent domain. It will not be a new service but will move the buses off of Ventura Boulevard, where 9,000 a day now use it. It is not a large volume of travel. It will greatly increase the risk of grade crossing accidents. Buses are not built to take grade crossing collisions.

Miami found this out on its busway, which is simply a feeder bus to the subway line. Because of accidents, they had to slow the busway down. Miami voters last November voted to tax themselves to build many miles of new subway tracks. Tom Hirst did not tell us this, nor does his busway video.

The table of comparisons in The Post article correctly shows that Dulles rail will attract more than twice as many riders as a busway. This is urgent if we are to solve congestion, pollution, cost and safety problems we all suffer.

Bus rapid transit will add nothing to movement capacity. That is why it costs less to build. Its lower cost of operation is simply the result of far fewer passengers and shorter distances of travel. We will get nothing worthwhile for our $481 million.

Hirst's video promises that each bus will seat 30 people, which comes to $2,333 a seat per year. A Metrorail car will seat 68-80 people at a cost per seat of only $1,031 to $1,225 a year. The bus costs twice as much. It is not a good answer to our problem. The present bus service is better than bus rapid transit would be.

Our own Shirley busway, now HOV lanes, is another failure. It lost 67 percent of its passengers on two routes between 1981 and 1996. Metrorail came to Springfield and multiplied transit use five times over, at a lower operating cost.

Our elected officials know I do not always agree with them, but this time they are absolutely right and in the public interest to support the Dulles rail line.

E.L. Tennyson


[Tennyson is a transportation consultant and former public works official in Pennsylvania and Arlington County.]

Sexual Activity Survey

Is the Wrong Answer

The county Board of Supervisors and School Board have voted to survey public school students about their sexual activity. This survey asks leading questions whose wording suggests that premarital sexual activity is the norm and is therefore expected. The survey, on the other hand, asks no questions about students' attitudes about these activities.

Shouldn't we know, for example, whether students believe that they can engage in promiscuous behavior safely?

Also, there are no plans to use survey results to set and monitor goals for the schools' family life education lessons on sexual activity. The family life education curriculum advisory committee, on which I serve, was not even consulted about the survey.

The family life education program does not now have, and has never had a goal, to reduce teen promiscuity and venereal disease. The schools have never used, nor do they plan to use, surveys to monitor program effectiveness in these areas.

This is irresponsible, outrageous and violates the Code of Virginia.

Arthur G. Purves